If you live in Beverly Hills, Coral Gables or Monmouth Township, then sure, a Veyron or a 599 is what you drive. In those places, people understand and appreciate a car like that as a symbol of your magnificence. But try cruising Jackson Hole, Aspen or Telluride in a Ferrari and you’d be seen as -- possibly -- a little out of touch. Perhaps even, gawd forbid, a poseur. Pull up in a 1947 Dodge Power Wagon, however, and ski bunnies will pile into the bed of the truck and squeal.
Sure, that’s a vast oversimplification, but there is cool and then there is high-country cool. The Legacy Power Wagon is country cool with a capital K. Legacy Classic Trucks in Jackson Hole, Wyo., takes iconic 4WD Dodge Power Wagons from 1945-1968 and restores them to their original glory and beyond. Well beyond.
“The original trucks will go maybe 40 mph, and the brakes sometimes work,” said Legacy founder Winslow S. Bent. “I felt if we could modify these things so they’d go 80 mph and pull horse trailers, then maybe high-end clientele would be interested in them.”
So he restored one, doing the first truck himself.
“The first one, it looked like this,” he said, gesturing to a recent, glorious restoration. “I sold it for $100,000. I was, like, ‘Hey, this is great!'”
Now Bent has 10 employees and a 10,000-square-foot facility in Driggs, Idaho, a half-hour west of his home in Jackson Hole, and there’s a waiting list for Legacy Power Wagons six months to a year long. Turns out there is indeed a market for this particular mix of beauty and brawn.
You can get a winch as big 16,500 pounds.
Most of Legacy’s customers own their own land -- so much of it that a massive and mighty Power Wagon is what they need to roam around on it. While the Legacy work is concours perfect (should concours ever start to accept trucks), the price for all this meticulous restoration isn’t cheap. Depending on how you outfit yours, the final bill ranges from $185,000 to $300,000. But once you see one of these magnificent beasts, chances are you’ll agree it’s worth it.
Legacy goes through the whole truck, bumper to bumper, and makes everything new and better. Bent was thorough about what was needed to do a job like this right. Rather than just hammer out truck parts from sheetmetal, he invested $150,000 in tooling to make new truck beds and $50,000 for fender tooling. All new pieces are stamped in Detroit. Everything on the trucks is American-made, said Bent.
After the rust is repaired, the frame rails are fully boxed (instead of being C-sectioned on the ends), and the interior is brought up to like-new with a modern radio and air conditioning. On the truck we got to drive, the retro-looking gauges were made by Classic Instruments, the wooden steering wheel was by Nardi, the carpet was fromMercedes-Benz and the headliner was made of Porsche microfiber. The wood on the floor of the bed in back was African mahogany swathed with tung oil.
You can even resize it. While there is a regular cab option, we recommend, after sitting in both, the extended cab, which has 14 more inches of interior space and 14 more inches of wheelbase. You can also get the original-SUV Carryall.
And power? Oh man. On most conversions, the original engine is swapped out for a 585-hp, 550-lb-ft supercharged 6.2-liter Chevy LSA V8 retuned for mid-range torque.
“From 2,000 to 4,500 rpm, it pulls like an animal,” said Bent.
“So for them we offer a stroked small-block Chrysler. It’s available, but not one customer of the 60 we’ve delivered has asked for the Chrysler.”
You can also order a 6.2-liter, 430-hp, 420-lb-ft Chevrolet LS3; a 7.0-liter, 430-hp, 500-lb-ft Chrysler 426; or a 170-hp, 480-lb-ft 3.9-liter Cummins turbo-diesel. The Chevies get a four-speed automatic, while the Chrysler and Cummins get five-speed manuals. But most people get the LSA Chevy V8.
“The LSA engine, transmission and computers come straight from Chevy Performance,” Bent said. “They’re simple, they have a ‘connect-and-cruise’ package that makes them easy and simple to install and they come with a two-year, 50,000-mile warranty that they actually stand behind.”
And so far, after 60 turnkey Legacy conversions, they all seem to work.
“You could drive to Vegas at 80 mph,” Bent said. “It’s the gentleman’s cruiser.”
The Legacy Power Wagon has a modern interior.
We cruised in a big, red extended-cab Legacy Power Wagon with paint so deep you could swim in it. Our test-rig started life in 1947 as a snow plow for the town of Breckenridge, Colo., a job it did until 1977. After that, it worked stacking logs for log homes (they know the histories of all their trucks at Legacy). A recent Dodge Carryall had been hand-painted 15 times, Bent said, but under the paint they found numbers that indicated it had served in Tunisia in WWII as a forward radio control vehicle. “In the A-pillar, we found a German harmonica,” Bent said. They restored the harmonica, too.
When Legacy got our Breckenridge snow-plow Power Wagon (the one you see pictured here), the client for whom it was built had asked for “… the all-time cool truck.”
It’s safe to say the client got just that.
The Legacy team stretched the cab back 14 inches, adding replacement curved glass from a 1950 Chevy truck in each rear corner for better visibility.
“Fourteen inches allows you to put in big, comfy seats,” Bent said. And they are.
Indeed, we cruised around some Central California hilly roads a little bit, and it felt like a hot rod. The ride on paved roads with leaf-spring suspension was a little bouncy, maybe, which could have been evened out with a load of bricks in the bed, but it wasn’t painful. A 130-inch wheelbase helps smooth out anything. We rode on monster 40-inch Toyo M/T 40x13.50 R17 LT Open Country tires. Our truck had a hidden mount for a goose-neck trailer in the bed, a popular option for horse-trailer-towing. Legacy added a remote oil cooler and a remote charge air cooler inside the bed-mounted toolbox.
When we tried a brake-torque drag strip launch on a flat, paved, private road, the truck felt like a real dragster –- 585 hp is hard to overlook. The tires lit up evenly, and the truck launched straight. Acceleration was a little beyond brisk. Bent says to expect 0-60 in 6.2 seconds. Imagine taking this from the Legacy factory in Driggs across the state to the Pepsi Nightfire Nationals Aug. 13-16 at Firebird Raceway in Eagle, Idaho. You’d rule!
We did have one software glitch during our drive. Shortly after that launch, the engine quit. It restarted after a couple tries, and Bent later said it was due to an error code in the throttle position sensor caused by a tuner who had the truck on the dyno the day before. We think maybe it freaked out because we brake-torqued it, stepping on the brake and the gas at the same time then lifting off the brake suddenly. Whatever the cause, it seemed to fix itself, and we didn’t have any problems the rest of the day.
From there we crept up into the hills above Ojai, put it in four-wheel low and crawled up and down some steep dirt trails. We’re pretty sure it was unstoppable. The rear Dynatrac Pro 80 axle and front Dana 60 are serious off-road implements. While you could drive to Vegas at 80, you could also drive straight up pretty much anything at 8.
This is easily the best combination of drag-racing launches and slow-motion rock crawling we’ve ever driven. If there was a biathlon of mega-trucks, combined with a Concours de la Truck (and if there isn’t a Concours de la Truck, there should be), this meaty beast would win easily.
You can get your own from legacypowerwagon.com. There’s a six-month wait for a regular cab, nine months for the extended cab and a year for a Dodge Carryall. In addition to what he has in stock, Bent estimates there are maybe 30 more Power Wagons he can get his hands on. After that, they’re all gone. But he has plans beyond this truck. Legacy will do Mack, Diamond T and Studebaker trucks; they do a Jeep Scrambler now, and in 2016 they will start doing 1955-57 NAPCO Chevy Stepsides. With one of each, you could have a fleet of Legacy trucks and rule the world. Now that would be fun.
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